COVID has affected the way we recycle. Here’s how you can ‘Sort Smart’

With more people working from home and shopping online during the COVID-19 pandemic, curbside recycling carts have never been fuller.

“Both the City of Sacramento and Sacramento County saw a 15 percent uptick in the amount of curbside recyclables collected in April,” said Erin Treadwell with the City of Sacramento Recycling and Solid Waste Division. “But often, what ends up in the bin doesn’t belong there.”

To reduce cart contamination, the City of Sacramento is partnering with the County of Sacramento and cities of Citrus Heights, Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova and Galt on an educational campaign to make sure curbside recyclables stay recyclable and out of the landfill.

The new website,, connects residents with recycling information specific to their own city or county guidelines.

Here are tips to avoid common recycling mistakes:

  1. Empty and Dry. Prevent contamination from food-soiled items by making sure that recyclables are empty and dry. Garbage and containers filled with food make the cart unacceptable for recycling. A quick shake, a wipe with a spatula or towel will do the trick.
  2. Sort Smart. While throwing items in the garbage should be a last resort, there are some items that are not accepted in the recycling cart. Cartons, shredded paper and greasy pizza boxes cannot be processed by recycling facilities. Check the Sort Smart website to see what is acceptable where you live.
  3. Keep it Loose – No Bags. Once you’ve properly sorted out your recyclables, place them directly in the recycle bin. Do not bag them. Bagged items are treated like garbage and end up in the landfill. Residents are encouraged to reuse plastic bags, bubble wrap, resealable plastic bags and other film plastics, then put in the garbage cart when they are no longer useful.

“Planning for this campaign began in 2019, but the message resonates now even more with the increase in the residential waste stream,” said Jerome Council, Integrated Waste General Manager for the City of Sacramento. “The website connects visitors to information quickly so they can make good choices on what to put in the garbage and what can be recycled.”

For more information, visit the Sort Smart website.

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